Backyard Nature Activities
Exploration and Discovery
Nature scavenger hunt: Get an empty egg carton and create a list of 12 items to collect from your backyard - e.g., natural items which are: soft, spiky, blue, strong, beautiful, old, fragile, sharp, smooth, closed, open, wet, dry, etc. (be creative).
Star/cloud gazing: Lie down under the night sky and watch the stars (or clouds in the daytime). Talk about what you see.
Hug a tree: In a forested area, take turns being blindfolded. Get led to a tree (touch and identify unique characteristics) and then led away. After removing the blindfold, the tree hugger must try to locate his/her tree.
Animal identification: Walk around your yard and see what wildlife or signs of wildlife you can identify. Talk about what each animal looks like and where you found it. Can you figure out what each animal eats and how each one lives? If you find tracks, can you guess what kind of animal left them?
Leaf/tree identification: Walk around your yard and pick up leaves. Talk about what each leaf looks like and how it feels in your hand. Try to determine what tree it might have come from and what that tree is called. Also try to find acorns, pinecones, and other seeds.
Mini hike: Get on your hands and knees and take a 100 inch hike. Bring along a magnifying glass and start crawling. What do you find that you never noticed before?
Crafts and Construction
Natural orchestra: Create musical instruments using only natural materials you can find in your backyard including small pieces of wood, sticks, stones, small branches, pinecones, blades of grass, reeds, hay, etc. http://wilderdom.com/games/descriptions/NaturalOrchestra.html
Bird feeder: Learn how to make a bird feeder for your backyard. Talk about the different kinds of birds that visit each day. http://education.audubon.org/activities/backyard-bird-feeders
Backyard trail: Use sticks and small rocks to mark a trail through your backyard. Talk about what you can see from your trail and take family and friends on a guided hike.
Miniature homes and forts: Collect small, straight twigs or thin branches from around your yard. Build a teepee, log cabin, and lean-to for fairies or gnomes. Build miniature forts with rocks, moss, and pinecones.
Bird house: Build a bird house or nesting box for birds you see in your backyard. Explore what kinds of houses your favorite species prefer, and how to make your backyard a more attractive habitat for the birds you want to see. http://library.fws.gov/Bird_Publications/house.html
Websites for more nature activity ideas:
1Rideout, V. and E. Hamel. The Media Family: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Their Parents. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2006.